The beatitudes: a source of hope and challenge
By Fr. Sal Putzu, SDB
MANKIND has always valued and exalted the strong, the beautiful, the successful . . . . The happiness of a person has usually been measured by the degree in which one achieves good results or arouses admiration. Conversely, the absence of strength, beauty, riches, success, and the like, is considered a misfortune—a source of frustration, humiliation and suffering. Such has always been the prevailing scale of values in “the kingdom of man.”
When Jesus came, he challenged and rejected this earth-bound standard which condemns to hopelessness and frustration the majority of mankind. With his “Sermon on the Mount,” he turned upside down this short-sighted value system, and opposed to it the values of the “Kingdom of God,” the opening set of which is enshrined in “The Beatitudes.”
These eight rhythmic statements extol some of the revolutionary values of the Kingdom Jesus has come to establish. They contain a message of hope for all the afflicted. They are an invitation addressed to all to gaze beyond the dim horizon of human limitations, injustices, and tragedies.
The foundation of the hope instilled by the Beatitudes is God’s merciful love and His special concern for all those who are afflicted, oppressed or forgotten, as well as those who are humble, meek and promoters of peace.
The Beatitudes tell us all that our life is like “the tale of two worlds”—the world of our earthly life, which is often characterized by struggles oppression and suffering of every sort, and the world of God’s justice and special love for all those who place all their trust in Him. It is such divine and omnipotent LOVE which makes all the difference already in this world, and which will find its perfect manifestation and completion in heaven.
The Beatitudes have exerted a unique fascination on innumerable souls, including many who do not belong to the Christian denominations. They strike the readers of today just as they must have thrilled Jesus’ listeners when he proclaimed them for the first time.
And yet, for all of us, there is a danger that we take them for granted; the danger that their message may fail to move our wills. They do not seem to affect our attitudes and our lives. Some of us may have developed a very dangerous “immunization” against the principles enshrined in the Beatitudes.
It was not so for the Christians of the first generations, as well as for the Saints of all centuries. For them, these eight simple pronouncements of Our Lord were a source of continuous inspiration and a challenge in their lives. The Beatitudes were to them what soil, rain and sunlight are to a tree. Rooted in them and imbibed with their spirit, the Saints produced fruits of humility, mercy, purity, commitment, justice, fidelity, endurance, and hope. The Beatitudes have been for the Saints of all ages a WAY OF LIFE.
Such they should be also for us, today.